An innovative new project at the Trail of Tears State Forest in southern Illinois includes cutting down several trees.
You wouldn't think the State Department of Natural Resources would get rid of trees...but DNR Forest Ecologist Ben Snyder says that's exactly what they're doing.
"We're selectively removing trees, so we can let more sunlight into the forest for oaks, which is the dominant tree in our forest and food for about 100 different animals. By doing that, we can restore the forest's wildflowers, grasses and shrubs."
The effort is part of a 925-acre demonstration project which explores ways to restore and manage the forest.
Recent inventories of Trail of Tears State Forest reveal oak trees and native plants are on the decline. Oaks, the keystone tree species at the forest, saw numbers in the canopy drop by 50 percent between 1980 and 2014. At the same time, there was a steady increase in American beech and maple. Unfortunately, neither of those trees provides food for wildlife comparable to the oaks that are being lost.